Business success strategies for introverts

Not all introverts are paralyzed by the thought of interacting with new people.

by Laura Orsini — 

Many business owners and entrepreneurs are outgoing folks who find it easy to socialize, meet new people and start conversations with strangers. For them, networking ― a most necessary component to creating and sustaining business relationships ― is easy, or at least not a dreaded chore. They look forward to bringing new friends and acquaintances into their circles and are energized by people-meeting opportunities. Those running a home-based business or one-woman shop often eagerly anticipate their various meetings, luncheons and mixers.

But what about the introverted business owner? The person for whom meeting new people can be severely challenging, if not downright painful? Is networking any less important to the success of their business? Definitely not. Even when you own your own company, doing business requires meeting a lot of people. Sometimes, just following up with new prospects, contacts or clients can push an introvert beyond their comfort zone — never mind actually getting out there to make pitches, give presentations, or attend trade shows and exhibitions.

Not all introverts are paralyzed by the thought of interacting with new people. As Mark Dykeman writes on themightyintrovert.blogspot.com, “Introverts tend to enjoy having solitary time for thought and reflection. We are not as dependent on other people as extroverts are. Introverts are often quite happy to spend time alone.” Though introverts can function well in the presence of other people, personal interaction can be exhausting to an introvert. “After a while we feel drained and frail like Superman does after being exposed to Kryptonite, his great weakness,” Dykeman writes.

So what is a highly introverted individual supposed to do when dread overwhelms their every effort to get out there, prospect and meet new people?

Look for the balance. Realize that spending time alone is equally important as spending time with people. If you’re highly introverted, you may undervalue the benefits of socializing with others, such as knowledge, friendship, growth and laughter.

Practice socializing. Like any other skill set, social skills can be learned. Introverts tend to shy away from social activities because they are uncomfortable and they fear they won’t know what to do, especially if the unexpected occurs. Push past the discomfort, realizing that the more you do it, the better you will get at it.

Fake it till you make it. You might be surprised to find that some people who seem like the biggest extroverts at your networking events are actually incredibly introverted. They have simply learned to exercise their social muscles for an hour or two at a stretch. Such an event may deplete them afterwards, but they know the value of meeting new people and are willing to endure discomfort to do so.

Avoid labeling extroverts. If you consider extroverted people shallow and annoying, it just makes sense that you would neither want to be more like them nor spend more time with them. Broaden your vision of an outgoing person, and you will be more likely to want to interact with them.

Recognize the limits of online socializing. Meeting and connecting with people online is much less intimidating than face-to-face socializing, but it can never take the place of real human contact. You needn’t eliminate your online socializing, but don’t allow it to take the place of live events.

Give yourself lots of options. The more opportunities you have to interact with people, the less weight each one will carry. This will actually relieve stress, rather than compound it.

Play up your strengths and put others first. Worry less about what you should say and listen carefully to your conversation partners. This will allow you to make your conversation relevant to their interests, at the appropriate time.

Realize that you needn’t brag to promote yourself. Introverts sometimes hesitate to speak if they feel they lack sufficient knowledge or expertise. However, preparing for your meetings in advance will give you the confidence to state indisputable facts about your accomplishments.

Refuse to let yourself be cowed. Do not assume that other people have more right to speak up just because they seem more confident than you. You don’t have to respond quickly; your quiet thoughtfulness may give you invaluable insight. If you are asked questions that feel invasive or demand an immediate response, focus on the things you do know and ask questions that invite others to share their knowledge.

Visualize your success. Rather than fearfully imagining a meeting as a place where you could end up being interrogated or judged, imagine it as a circle of supportive colleagues. Sooner than later, that will become your reality.

Put your writing skills to work. Being introspective is an asset when it comes to crafting e-mails, reports and other materials geared toward your audience. Promote yourself by identifying the core of your clients’ needs and matching your capabilities to them.

Use the telephone. In general, introverts prefer to be well-prepared, as opposed to speaking extemporaneously. When making business calls, have an outline of your key points ready, including potential responses to difficult questions.

Make one small change at a time. Many people remain shy because they have built their perceived deficit into such a giant obstacle that they come to believe overcoming it is impossible. Making small changes to expand your comfort zone will help create the momentum to take bigger steps over time. Rather than setting a goal to become the Queen of Networking, set a goal to meet one new person at the next event you attend.

 

Laura Orsini is a professional editor, writer and marketing advisor with a BA in nonfiction writing from the University of Arizona.  602-253-8463, Laura@wordsmadeeasy.com or www.wordsmadeeasy.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 1, February/March 2008.

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